Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
TMD or Temporomandibular Disorders, are characterized by jaw pain and other issues in the surrounding tissues, which result in reduced jaw movement functions. Conditions that affect other joints, like arthritis, can also affect the Temporomandibular Joint.
Depending on the seriousness, a single joint or both joints may be involved. TMD can also include issues with the muscles in the jaw, they may affect the jaw joint or occur separately from them. This can affect your ability to chew, swallow, speak, produce facial expressions, and in some cases, breathe.
What is the TMJ?
Your TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint connects your jaw to your skull. There are two of them and they are located in the front of each ear. The TMJ allows you to move your jaw in an up and down direction, back and forth direction, as well as a side to side direction. This allows you to talk and chew. To keep these motions functioning smoothly, there is a soft tissue disc that absorbs shock to the joint when you are chewing.
About 5% to 12% of the population are affected by Temporomandibular Disorders. Even though both men and women can experience Temporomandibular Disorders, most women in their childbearing years seek treatment.
Symptoms of TMD
Symptoms usually results as a dull ache and pain, which comes and goes in the jaw joint and surrounding areas. Some people may experience no pain but still have limited jaw function or movement.
Symptoms can include:
- pain in the jaw muscles
- neck and shoulder pain
- stiffness in jaw muscles
- frequent headaches
- locking of the jaw or limited movement and function
- popping, clicking, or grating in the jaw joint when opening or closing your mouth
- ear pain, a feeling of pressure, ringing in the ears
- a bite that feels uneven or off
- vision problems
If you experience any of these symptoms, especially frequently, let your dentist know.
Causes of TMD
TMD is believed to be caused by factors like jaw injury and joint diseases like arthritis. Bruxism or tooth grinding and/or clenching can make TMD symptoms worse. Tension in the head or neck muscles may also make TMD symptoms worse.
Habits like fingernail biting, biting pens or pencils, and improperly fitted dentures can also result in TMD symptoms.
Some patients can experience relief from TMD symptoms on their own and without any treatment. Placing a cold or warm compress near the jaw joint and massaging it can help to ease sore jaw muscles. Try eating soft foods and cutting foods into small pieces that require you to open your mouth a little to ease symptoms. Try to relax your jaw muscles and avoid opening your mouth fully, even when yawning.
If your symptoms do not resolve by themselves or are frequent in nature, you should see your dentist. Your dentist may suggest a night guard which can help your jaw muscles to relax. Your dentist may refer you to a specialist who specializes in TMD. Surgery may be used to treat TMD in some cases where other treatment options have not worked